Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Venezuela: Shooting Incidents by Security Forces on the Rise

Two Venezuelan army sergeants have been arrested, along with six suspects in connection with last week’s shooting death of a 10-year-old girl, according to the Office of the Attorney General.

The young girl’s father was driving his daughter to school in the southwestern city of San Cristóbal, when a group of gunmen fired several rounds on the man’s car without provocation.

San Cristóbal is the capital city of the Venezuelan state of Táchira. It is located in a mountainous region of Western Venezuela. From its inception, the city evolved rapidly as one of the most progressive and important centers of commerce in the country, due primarily to its rich soil and its close proximity to Colombian border (35 miles).

COMMENT: Sergeants Hector Arevalo and Jamenberth Navarro along with the six civilian suspects were arrested by Venezuela’s CICPC investigative police on March 29, the day after the incident. The eight face charges of aggravated homicide and criminal conspiracy, and will remain in custody pending trial.

On March 16, 2012, twelve police officers were arrested in Maracaibo after police set up an unmarked police checkpoint that resulted in the death of Karen Berendique, 19, the daughter of Chilean consul Fernando Berendique, when the officers opened fire on the vehicle that Berenique and her brother were traveling in.

It should also be noted that the police were not in uniform. Consequently, Karen and her brother ran the checkpoint, as do most motorists faced with unmarked checkpoints, thinking they may be carjackers or criminals.

In November 2011, another Chilean consul was shot and beaten during a two-hour kidnapping in Caracas. And in January 2012, the Mexican ambassador and his wife were abducted in the capital for several hours and were forced to pay a undisclosed ransom.

Given the number of cases of criminality in Venezuela by both the police and criminals, my personal advice is for residents and expatriates alike to consider the use of fully-armored vehicles, as well as light-armored vehicles when feasible.

In my book, STAYING SAFE ABROAD, I address how such vehicles can be an effective deterrent against sudden vehicular attacks.

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